Advise and Consent and Sexual Orientation

Talk about politically incorrect!

Senator Anderson punches his gay ex-lover in the mouth. The poor fellow drops face-down in the gutter. Now...there's a lot of things that can happen to a guy when he's punched, but this guy goes in the gutter! Face down! The unmistakable symbolism: that's where he belongs!!*

That's how Otto Preminger treated homosexuality in his 1962 movie Advise and Consent. A former Academy Award winning director, Preminger took bows for his film. Today, he'd be crucified for it. When the movie was re-done for DVD a few years ago , the homosexual sub-plot was replaced with a Jewish one. (even though the original plot was based upon a true incident.)

 

Times have changed. It's anyone with an unkind word about homosexuality who belongs in the gutter today. The District Overseer can barely believe his own words as he observes: "nowadays, only homosexuals want to get married." Evidence, he maintains, that the world is "upside down."

It sure seems that way from any historical perspective.  In my lifetime, I've seen homosexuality go from reviled fringe to cutting-edge alternative. There once seemed nothing more unlikely than this verse becoming reality:

Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.    Rom 1:24-27

It's an unflattering view of homosexuality, but I don't include it for that reason, rather, for it's implication that homosexuality would become commonplace. Nobody of my generation would ever have foreseen it. Seemingly, the going against what is "natural" was enough to rule it out. When you work with plumbing or electricity, you link the male end with the female end. Always. That's the way it's done. Nobody thinks it's cutting edge plumbing to solder two male ends together, or female. It doesn't happen. And it's always been that way with human sexuality. Doubtless, that's how we came to apply those terms to electricity and plumbing.

Preminger's portrayal plays mean-spirited today, yet it was right in sync with popular sentiment of that time - indeed,  of any time. Homosexuality used to be perverted. Now, however, it is edgy, and heterosexuality....well, a little unimaginative, if not downright dull. The very words straight (inflexible, efficient, but monotonous) vs gay (happy, live life to the full!) are rife with the implication. Tabloids breathlessly speculate about this or that star. Are they attracted to .....yawn, how boring....the opposite sex, OR are they enamored with.....cross your fingers, oh please, please, please....the SAME sex! Yes!! That's what I'm talkin about!!!

It's unbelievable!! How can this be the rage? How can it be mainstream? Yes, as a small fringe...that has always been, but how can it seriously rival "natural" sex attraction? Can they all really have been born that way?

Are any of them born that way? Freud used to say that sexuality was determined at a very early age based on interaction of the parents. He's shouted down today on that point, but is there reason to shout him down? Or is his theory, which implies abnormality, just not what people want to hear today?

Or are there yet other factors at work?

Otto Preminger pioneered in introducing taboo subjects to film: homosexuality in Advise and Consent, rape in Anatomy of a Murder, drug addiction in The Man With the Golden Arm. You can count upon films making abundant use of these juicy themes today, but in Preminger's time they were unheard of. Yet, from Advise and Consent (1962) on, every film treatment of homosexuality was more favorable than the one before. Today, there's no film stigma whatsoever about gays, as there was then. Quite the opposite. The gay character is cool, intriguing, hip, contrasting well with other dullards on the show.

I don't pretend to know how to weigh these 3 factors - genetics, Freud, media - or if there are yet other ones. The endorsement of the psychiatric profession, for example. Excess hormones, for another, readily found in modern food and water supplies. Not that this would cause homosexuality, I don't imagine. But it may push sexuality to be much more fluid, more susceptible to other influences. Pure guesswork on my part. I don't really know. But I'll tell you one thing. Never would my generation have anticipated that sexual identity would be so pliable as it has proved to be. That the Bible forecasts this, against all then-common wisdom, is a major point in its favor.

 

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[EDIT    Feb 21, 2010] The newly emerging field of epigenetics also suggests some possibilities.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

1874, 1914, 1975, and ....um....1925, and what's this about 1994?

Tobias from the other side of the globe penned a long and thoughtful post on religion. I commented about something or other, and he responded with:

Personally, I don't believe the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm more inclined toward the Protestant (maybe Presbyterian) view, but that's just my belief.

Russell did make several mistakes, after all, declaring 1874 as the Second Coming of Christ and World War I in 1914 as Armageddon. He was wrong on both counts.

Like I said, it all eventually comes down to your interpretation of the Bible.

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Dear Tobias from the Other Side of the Globe:

It may seem odd to you, but I don't regard the mistakes you mentioned as very serious wrongs. Embarrassing, yes. But not so serious as to disqualify Russell as a genuine Christian, or the movement he founded. After all, we all know that humans are imperfect. And we all know (I think) that Christians are instructed by our Lord to "keep on the watch" concerning his return. For example:

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man............Luke 21:36


Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
................Matt 24:42

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour...........Matt 25:13

Okay, okay, so we may not know the day and the hour. But to nail the year has proven an irresistible temptation. Not just for us, but for many - even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton, still thought by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He foretold all would end in 2060, a date which the discerning reader will note, lies yet before us.

Combine Jesus' words with human imperfection, and it is not so hard to understand that a genuine Christian might jump the gun on occasion. Their mistake is not that of issuing a prophesy, which would make them (gulp) false prophets. Instead, they misinterpret an existing prophesy. A different thing altogether, not unlike misreading a bus schedule. A perfect person will not misread a bus schedule. An imperfect one sometimes will.

Frankly, you could even turn it around and count the failed dates as a plus. If we really are to "keep on the watch," as Jesus said, what are we to say about a group who never even comes close to anticipating a time for Jesus' return - indeed, who never even thinks of it? Aren't they sleeping on the job? After all, the guy high up on the mast, peering into the mist for all he is worth, ready to sound the alarm at the approach of an enemy ship - well, he may sound off prematurely once or twice. The stakes are high. He wants to not let his shipmates down. He's been charged by the captain to keep a sharp eye on things.

But the guy who is sound asleep up there will never issue a false alarm. He also won't issue a true alarm. When the bow of the approaching ship smashes through the hull and pinches his toes....that's when he'll sound the alarm. Who's the better watchman?

Or the racer on the blocks who jumps the gun. It's a great nuisance. They have to restart the race. But nobody holds it against him - so long as it's occasional. They realize it's a consequence of an imperfect person "keeping on the watch." Now, there are probably some racers who never jump the gun. But they never win any races, either.

No, a failed "Armageddon date is not such a bad thing. Nor has it been especially common. In my lifetime, it's happened only once, in 1975. So just how many times have Jehovah's Witnesses foretold the end of this system of things, anyhow? Well, there is the aforementioned 1975, which I've written about here.

And there are the dates 1874 and 1914, which Tobias mentioned, and which I've written of here.

And there may be one or two right around 1914. They really were pretty sure they were going to heaven that year. So, like when you drive in a nail, and it doesn't go in straight, and in frustration you hit all around the spot.....um...maybe it was something like that. Or maybe not. History is murky, and there are a lot of grousers who gleefully try to inflate the figure, hoping to embarrass me, as if JWs predicted the end every other week, so some of these enddates may come just out of their own wishful thinking. I'm not sure.

Oh....and I think there was something in 1925. Not the big deal that was 1914 or 1975, but something. How widespread it was I'm not sure. I'll bet, though, that since 1925 differs from 1975 by fifty years, the 1925 date has something to do with the Jubilee system, in which every 50th year had significance. Aspects of that system have long been thought to be prophetic.

And sometimes on the internet, from these soreheads who try to pump the numbers, one comes across 1994. I've no idea where that comes from. I was very active in the faith throughout that time, and I never heard a thing about it. It was certainly never in print. I think it's the soreheads and number-puffers at work.

All the same, we're not doing it any more, setting dates. We've gotten burned too many times. Besides, we've sailed past all the markers, as I recall one speaker saying. Besides, we don't have to do dates; the Aztecs have 2012 as a end of the world date! This one's not even biblical, so it's more palatable for the new-agers, astrologers, modern witches, and the like. And don't forget 2060, from the Father of Science. Didn't he stand on the shoulders of giants to figure out that one?

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More on 1914 here.

More on 1975 here.

How to Predict the End of the World (EOW) here.

[EDIT Oct 1, 2020....Additional material here from Dr.George D. Chryssides, which I came across recently, and, might as well say it, is more scholarly in tone than my own stuff.] 

False Prophets here.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The League of Nations and Jehovah's Witnesses

After the first World War, weary nations hoped world war would never ever happen again, though it did 20 years later. They proposed a League of Nations -  an international forum - that would hash out problems before they reached the boilover point. They even included Germany. Alas, the same Treaty of Versailles that proposed the League also decreed that Germany pay the full cost of the war just ended. Of course, Germany couldn't, and the resulting economic strain created chaos (compounded by the Great Depression) from which Hitler emerged, appealing to national pride and a sense of victimization. World War II started, and the League of Nations collapsed.

After the second World War, the League was resurrected in principle, and rechristened the United Nations. Jehovah's Witnesses have pointed to it as the beast of Rev 17:8 -

The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.

It "was," prior to World War II. It "is not," during that war, and it "ascends out of the abyss" (as the U.N.) after that war. It is also described as (Revelation 13:14-15) the "image of the beast," since it reflects the qualities of its component nations. Since the most prominent of these component creates it, they are said to have "breathed life" into it. Beasts are frequently used in the Bible as symbols of human governments, likely for the way they rip and tear and devour each other, and even their own peoples.

Detailed explanations of these verses, and indeed of all of Revelation, are found in the book Revelation - It's Grand Climax at Hand, available from Jehovah's Witnesses. I've previously referred to it here and probably some other places as well.

Now, offhand, a League of Nations - an international forum for peace and security - seems like a good idea. Let nations talk it out, not fight it out, and so forth. And no one has any gripe at all with the humanitarian good such agency has accomplished. The organization is, however, the exact opposite of what the Bible proposes. For the Bible advocates world government by God - God's Kingdom - which is to replace human rulership. It is described here, as God's answer after a long torrent of failed human efforts:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.    Dan 2:44

This is the same government of the "Lord's prayer," named here in Matt 6: 9-10   (NIV):

Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

People repeat this prayer, usually by rote, and it becomes like the Pledge of Allegiance. They have no idea what it means.

The League of Nations, noble though the idea sounds, advocates world government by man, and this puts it at odds with the Bible. President Woodrow Wilson lead in birthing the new organization. Ironically, he couldn't talk the U. S. Congress into joining. Europe was a long ways away. The oceans had always afforded good isolation, and hopefully, with WWI in the past, they would continue to do so. Let Europe attend to their own squabbling.

The churches, whom you might think would side with world government by God, fell all over themselves to embrace world government by man. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in America lost no time declaring "such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth...." If Congress didn't want to sign up, it wasn't for the churches' lack of effort; 14,450 leading clergymen signed a petition urging the Senate to get onboard with the rest of the League supporters. The Pope, too, pleaded for the League’s adoption. All this in 1919.

Seemingly, the only ones not buying into the hoopla were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as the International Bible Students. That same year - 1919 - addressing a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Society president asserted that "the Lord’s displeasure is certain to be visited upon the League . . . because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon “his plan,” even if all the rest of Christendom did. Three years later, discerning that the actual Christ’s kingdom had been established in heaven in 1914, (written about here and here) Rutherford urged conventioneers (it’s an oft-reported speech that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have heard about) to “advertise, advertise, advertise the king and his kingdom” - which is what Witnesses have done ever since.

Thus, establishment of the League of Nations represents a fork in the road. The churches, almost without exception, publicly embraced world government by man. At the same time, Jehovah’s organization publicly took the opposite path, advocating world government by God, in acknowledgement that God’s Kingdom does not come through any consensus of manmade governments. This explains Jehovah's Witnesses' neutrality toward this world’s governments. The churches, meanwhile, are ever convinced that God uses whatever national government they live under, to accomplish his aims. They are forever meddling in political affairs, trying to sway governments to write their own views into law. The actual Kingdom of God means little to them. Their goal is to put a smiley face on existing human governments.

Recommending world government by man or world government by God - this was among the chief differences between the churches and Jehovah's Witnesses back then. It is also so today.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Nelson Barbour and the Rochester Connection

It’s obvious to any reasonably astute spiritual person that Rochester, my hometown, is nowhere mentioned in scripture. It’s equally plain that such neglect is grossly unjust. Not only unjust, but arbitrary. After all, if I lived just 90 miles east, in Syracuse, I would at least have minor (yet satisfying) scriptural mention. I think it was Tom Wheatandweeds concluding a District Convention held in that city a few years back, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, who pointed out that all in attendance had fulfilled a scriptural pattern. He referred to Acts 28:12, the clown, which reads:  “And putting into port at Syracuse we remained three days… " And what if you lived in Rome, NY, 30 miles to the northeast. Well, then you’d have scriptural mention all the time. But Rochester….not even once.

Perhaps, though, things are different when we consider the modern-day history of Jehovah’s people - you know, the one that got underway in the late 1800’s, the one where Charles Taze Russell was a prominent figure. What finds we when we do a search of that period?

Whoa!! Right off the bat we hit a home run! In the very early days of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses, Russell came across a fellow searcher of scripture in Rochester by the name of Nelson H Barbour. The latter published a journal called The Herald of the Morning which advanced some doctrinal points that Russell, too, had discerned. The two teamed up and combined their Bible study groups, Barbour’s being the larger of the two. They became coeditors of the Herald. Russell infused cash into it, as it was in danger of going belly-up. They published a book together (in 1877): Three Worlds, and the Harvest of this World.

Ah….but the marriage didn’t last. Barbour began veering away with some ideas Russell didn’t care for, most notably denying the ransom value of Christ’s death, saying that [Russell’s words] “Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.” The two squabbled back and forth in the Herald magazine for awhile - each penning separate articles - and then Russell broke off partnership and started a journal of his own: Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known today as the Watchtower. The Watchtower grew to its present circulation of 37 million. The Herald of the Morning disappeared.

Who was this fellow Barbour? I don’t know if I’d be especially curious, were it not for his Rochester connection. But I spent some time in the library archives [unnecessary, it turned out, since most of the information is also at Wikapedia] and uncovered some basics about him. He was a serious student of the Bible. Born in 1824  and raised among Presbyterians [as I was], he was a little too inquisitive for them and broke off at age 19 to do independent study and preaching. He published some tracts and books before he met Russell, and he founded The Church of the Strangers afterward. A pork chop preacher! Joe Hart might have called him, but such wouldn’t be fair. Unlike storefront preachers today, who, Joe suspected, preached just so as to supply themselves with pork chops, Barbour gives every appearance of being legit. Another Barbour, Clarence A Barbour, was a local Presbyterian preacher at the time, and he gets more contemporary press than does Nelson. Was Nelson the black sheep of the family?  And an Elizabeth Barbour - apparently Nelson’s wife - is listed in the records of the Central Presbyterian Church (3/31/1873) as “suspended, erased & excommunicated” [!] Did she stray from Presbyterianism and join Nelson in his heresy? She died in 1901. Nelson died in 1905.

There were a lot of guys like Nelson in those days. In fact, Russell was like him. As the end of the Gentile times approached, there were many in the decades leading up to 1914 who began searching the Scriptures - roving about, as Daniel phrases it. They focused on the fulfillment of prophesies - many of them found in the book of Daniel. You could say they were “keeping on the watch“ as to the Lord’s return. Might they be the “you” of verse 12?

10 Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. 11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. 12 It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.       1 Pet 1:10-12

At any rate, Daniel relates what was told him about prophesies he recorded:

And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.    Dan 12:1

You couldn’t count on the Presbyterians or any mainline church to do any such “roving.” They’d long since grown fat and happy with well-paid clergymen who were content to confer God’s blessing on whatever human government they lived under. No, it would be breakaway students - folks like Barbour - and Russell.

In the early twentieth century, Charles Taze Russell enjoyed particular success. The Bible study group he formed has grown into Jehovah’s Witnesses of today. Is it because he was smarter than the rest of them? Or more dedicated? Started with more money? Was more humble?  Was more blessed?  He would, I think, have emphasized the latter factor. At any rate, the movement he chaired became exceedingly active. Russell himself saw his weekly sermons published in 4000 newspapers. A publication called The Continent said of him: “His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together.”

In what would have made Sam Harris proud, were he willing to give credit to a “deist,” -  which he is not - Russell and associates “called a spade a spade”with regard to the God-dishonoring teachings of the churches. So much so that when the eight principle officers of them was railroaded off to jail in 1918 (convicted under wartime charges of sedition - a conviction reversed nine months later, the original trial having been shown to contain 125 errors) the churches all high-fived each other.   Ray H Abrams writes in his book Preachers Present Arms, (published in 1933)  “An analysis of the whole case leads to the conclusion that the churches and the clergy were originally behind the movement to stamp out the Russellites. . . .
“When the news of the twenty-year sentences reached the editors of the religious press, practically every one of these publications, great and small, rejoiced over the event. I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy in any of the orthodox religious journals. ‘There can be no question,’ concluded Upton Sinclair, that ‘the persecution . . . sprang in part from the fact that they had won the hatred of “orthodox” religious bodies.’ What the combined efforts of the churches had failed to do the government now seemed to have succeeded in accomplishing for them—the crushing of these ‘prophets of Baal’ forever.”

Upon release from prison -their convictions overturned - the eight officers of the Watchtower were not a bit abashed. They resumed with full vigor their preaching campaign, and, in fact, intensified it. We see the result as the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Of course, we view the movement as not brand new, but a restoration of first century Christianity, following a foretold period of “sleep:”

Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”  Matt 13:24-30

But all that’s mere background for the post at hand. We’re dealing here with the backwater eddy that was Nelson H. Barbour. Rochester Central Library archives list his Church of the Strangers at the address 86 Williams Street* in Rochester.

No way!!! That’s not 100 yards from the old Irondequoit Kingdom Hall! (which is now a dentist’s office) I used to live in that Hall, in a downstairs apartment, when I pioneered back in the 70’s. Let me tell you, this is weird. It almost makes me feel like a bad Elisha, having caught the cloak of a bad Elijah. Of course, he missed by 100 yards, but that is what a bad Elijah would do. And I hate to think of the implications for this blog!

Sheesh! I’m almost sorry I asked.

*It is possible that the Williams St of today, at the very edge of Rochester City limits, is not the same Williams St. of 100 years ago. But I’ll leave matters as they are. How often does a guy get to end a sentence with three exclamation marks?

 


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The Rochester Union and Advertiser for October 5, 1895, page 12 offers the following article on Nelson Barbour:

The 57th installment of the Union’s Series of Saturday articles on Rochester pastors is devoted to the Rev Nelson H Barbour, pastor the Church of the Strangers, located on Williams St.


"Nelson H. Barbour was born at Toupsville, three miles from Auburn, N. Y., in 1824. At an early age the family moved to Cohocton, Stueben County, N. Y. From the age of 15 to 18, he attended school at Temple Hill Academy, Genseco, New York; at which place he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and began a preparation for the ministry under elder Ferris. Having been brought up among Presbyterians, however, and having an investigating turn of mind, instead of quietly learning Methodist theology he troubled his teacher with questions of election, universal salvation, and many other subjects, until it was politely hinted that he was more likely to succeed in life as a farmer than as a clergyman. But his convictions were strong that he must preach the gospel even if he could not work in any theological harness. And at 19, he began his life work as an independent preacher. Since which, all that is worth reporting in his life is inseparable from his theological growth. He could not believe in an all wise and loving Father, permitting the fall; then leaving man's eternal destiny to a hap-hazard scramble between a luke-warm Church and a zealous devil. On the contrary he believed the fall was permitted for a wise purpose; and that God has a definite plan for man, in which nothing is left to chance or ignorance.
"Mr. Barbour believes that what he denominated the present babel of confusion in the churches is the result of false teaching and the literal interpretation of the parables.
"The Church of the Strangers was organized in 1879. Mr. Barbour has preached in England, in several Australian colonies, in Canada, and many states of the Union. For the past twenty-two years he has published the Herald of the Morning in this city; claiming that in his 'call' to preach, he confered [sic] not with flesh and blood. Nor was he called to convert the world; but independent of creed, to search for the truth 'as it is in Jesus,' the 'second man Adam,' believing that the restored faith is a precurser [sic] of the millenium [sic] and 'Times of restitution of all things.'"

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Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Fight to Stamp Out HBB

Years ago I knew a fellow whose dealings would, from time to time, invite scrutiny from the state tax authorities. Whether those dealings were legal or not, I had no idea, but they certainly were slick. At any rate, this was long before the days of computers, and I no longer recall the specifics.

What I do recall was how he dealt with challenges from the tax people. He’d write several letters to them, each one contradicting the other. ‘Your goal is to get them to pull the file,’ he told me. ‘Once they pull it, they’ll lose it.’ He swore by this system.

It’s called muddying the waters. Politicians do it a lot. It accounts for much of negative campaigning. Say there is something about your position that is unpalatable, or even stinks to high heaven. Rather than explain it….perhaps the only realistic explanation is that you are a greedy and conniving so-and-so…..it’s better to divert attention from it. So you say nasty things about your opponent, or grandiose things that, while true, have nothing to do with the issue at hand, though they are phrased so that their irrelevance is not immediately obvious. Eventually the average citizen, who has much on his plate and is not obsessed with your issue in the first place, will throw up his hands and say ‘oh, the hell with it! They’re all liars, anyway.’ Once they‘ve done that, you can do whatever you want, reasonably free from scrutiny.

Does muddying the waters also account for HBB? Holy Book Belief (7th comment),says Dave from the Freethinker blog, is the phenomenon that other people have their own holy books…..it’s not just the Bible….which they look to as their authority. Therefore the whole concept of religion must be bogus.

Does it really work that way? To demolish a position, does it suffice merely to point to some who have concluded otherwise? Would that all life were so simple. You can’t get two people to agree on politics, either, or economics, government or philosophy.  Should everyone give up on these topics, then, and conclude they’re all nonsense? Or are we just attempting to rationalize being intellectually lazy (or disinterested)?

Look, ‘disinterested’ is one thing. But let’s not try to couch it as though it were a clinical syndrome. Dave might have gone further. He might have pointed out that, within each holy book, there are sects and divisions. So? All of life is like that. It the subject interests you, you search it through. If it doesn't, you don’t. Time was when the plethora of religions and beliefs would prompt searching, rather than giving up. Among our people, you constantly run across those who say they searched long and hard before finally finding a home here. One of our publications is entitled Mankind’s Search for God. So what are we to make of the fact that others, too, say they have searched, and they have arrived somewhere else as their truth?

I don’t know why we have to make anything out of it. Let God sort it out. If we think that Jehovah’s Witnesses have found the way of truth, then we act in harmony with it. I don’t lose my cookies should I find that others have concluded differently. People don’t agree on anything. Why should it be different when it comes to religion? Different faiths have characteristics appealing to different personalities, perhaps. Often, it’s just a matter of convenience, espousing the path one was born into.

The real issue is, or should be, the amount of disruption a given faith exacts upon society. If everybody propagated their ideas as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, this would be a very peaceful world. Sure, their visits might be viewed as pesky, yet if you disagree with them, they go away. Is that not less obtrusive than what most religions (or atheists) try to do: use the political process to write one’s views into law so that people are forced into them? Some groups don’t stop there: they even resort to violent means. But our weapons are words only. To those who don’t know what they believe, who lack confidence in their beliefs, or who don’t want to believe anything (but don’t quite care to admit it), our visits might seem a bit awkward. But to anyone who knows where they stand and knows how to live and let live, they are no big deal, even when they don’t agree with us.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses knows that, for many decades, we have anticipated a time when the world’s governments would turn upon religion, based upon our interpretation of this verse:

And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put [it] into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out [their] one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.       Rev 17:16-17

From time to time, there is speculation as to just what will transpire so as to trigger these dramatic events. Religion has been so disruptive for so long to world peace and unity that plausible theories are never lacking. But my bet is that this generation’s new militant atheists will have something to do with it.

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Wealth Distribution and the Jubilee

I plucked the latest Economist from my mailbox and thought I’d picked up the Watchtower by mistake. “World on the Edge” read the headline. Sure enough, on the cover was a silhouetted figure peering fearfully over the edge into the chasm below. And the edge was crumbling. Such illustrations have become commonplace in these recent days of financial meltdown.

A week or two ago, news anchor Suzie Gherow asked her economist guest (alas, I forgot his name) if he could come up with a moral to the unfolding crisis. He observed that many peoples worldwide look to the American economic system as a model to admire and emulate. He wondered if they would still do that "when they see how badly we’ve behaved.” As if responding to cue, Vladimir Putin, of all people, recently accused: “Everything happening now in the economic and financial sphere began in the United States. This is not the irresponsibility of specific individuals but the irresponsibility of the system that claims leadership.” I read this in an on-line newspaper. It included comments. Most bloggers agreed with Putin.

At any rate, government leaders are scrambling to come up with innovative solutions, doing things that not long ago would have been unthinkable…..countries assuming their banks’ bad debts, even nationalizing the banks….a partial nationalization here in the U.S, which is close to heresy in the land of free enterprise. One almost thinks of those verses that tell how mountains and hills during the “last days” would melt. The very institutions that seem to us as solid and unshakable as the literal mountains seemed to ancient peoples, are indeed shaking quickly.

In such a climate, it becomes crucial to assign blame. With that in mind, the appropriate committee of Congress (the House Committee on Government Reform) recently grilled Lehman Brothers ex-CEO Dick Fuld. For the most part Mr. Fuld outmaneuvered them. There’s a lot of Congressmen on that committee, and they all had to have their crack at him, so they weren’t allotted too much time apiece. Mr. Fuld succeeded in running out the clock…..repeating questions aloud, questioning premises, answering slowly and deliberately. Plus, there were not a few windbags among those politicians who wasted much of their time formulating their questions….you know, with prefaces and addendums and things, the way politicians like to do. Too, the Reprentatives were so wrapped up in their own questions that they didn't listen to answers of other people's questions. Thus, there was much repetition.

While Mr. Fuld was being interviewed, CNBC reported that a sore Lehman employee had socked him in the kisser some days ago while he was working out at the company gym!….a move he apparently did not outmaneuver.

Depending upon who you listen to, Mr. Fuld conveyed genuine remorse for Lehman’s demise. On the matter of compensation, however, he didn’t budge an inch. Though he made tens of millions of dollars in the very year his company tanked, that was proper remuneration, he insisted. After all, he pointed out, had the company remained solvent, he would have made much more. But this didn’t sit too well with the general public. If I had a dollar for every gripe I’ve heard about “obscene profits” of the big bankers, I, too, would have obscene profits and people could gripe about me.

When the new system at last arrives…..the government from God that the Bible speaks of and that Jehovah’s Witnesses advertise……will there be “obscene profits” in the hands of a very few? If the economic system handed down to ancient Israel is any guide, the answer is no. The Jubilee provision would see to that.

Every 50th year of that ancient agrarian system was the Jubilee year. At that time, each Jew was restored to his or her original allotted land inheritance. Through an interplay of hard work and dumb luck some would have prospered in those 50 years, others would have declined, maybe to the point of becoming impoverished. Land might well have been bought or sold. But not in perpetuity. On that 50th year, all things were set as at the beginning. Thus, while one would be rewarded for one’s work and business acumen, there would never take root a permanent underclass, nor a permanent wealthy class…..a situation characteristic of most societies today.

Some aspects of the cycle repeated every 7th year. Due to debts incurred, a Jew might even sell himself into slavery to one of his more prosperous neighbors. Laws regulated against mistreatment; moreover after seven years at most, the individual was set free, and that with a gift (from the prior owner) to assist him in starting anew. Again, neither a perpetual privileged class nor a locked-in poverty class could ever take root under that God-given arrangement.  Even were a man to squander every opportunity he had, the law was such that his children would still live to see equilibrium restored.

Awhile back I ran a post entitled Slavery in the Old Testament, intending to counter those critics who rail against the Bible for acknowledging and regulating slavery, rather than forbidding it. The post clarified the nature of OT slavery and, to my surprise, some commented that such slavery sounded pretty good compared to the plight of the homeless today, or even the working poor. Screecheven broke it down into figures which I will reproduce, confident he won’t mind:

“In the US minimum wage is currently $5.85 an hour. Lets suppose that you work 2 jobs; one FT and one PT. So 12 hours at that pay is $70.20 before taxes. After taxes are withheld, you have $56.87 a day left. You spend $65 (you have a cheap one) at your doctor's office. You get lucky and only spend $4 on the antibiotics that you need. You also are forced to take 3 days off from both jobs while you recover. Total cost is $239.58. That's four and a half days of pay. So if you have rent of $650 monthly, $135 monthly utilities (phone, electricity), $100 monthly food, $50 transportation costs. Now, in the above scenario, you have $200 left over every month. However, if you lose one of your jobs, suddenly you're short almost $200 monthly. What if you have a kid? 2 Jobs may not be an option and then you have to pay for daycare. Then you hear "go back to school." Yet if you have to take remedial classes to catch up, that adds to the expense (grants alone rarely cover everything). I guess the whole point of this rambling is that to overcome poverty in this world takes an astounding amount of sacrifice and will, with no guarantee of success. In fact, you also don't get real medical attention because the medical bills can pile up. I've seen and experienced the difference in medical care that you receive when you can afford to pay the bill vs not. It's actually a worse situation today…”

About a third of all those in Congress are millionaires, with a higher proportion in the Senate. Less than 1% of the general population fall into that category. It doesn’t give confidence that one might get justice from these guys, does it?….how many of them can even imagine how ordinary people live? Yet their wealth is dwarfed by that of the high-profile bankers who have lately been testifying before them….guys like Dick Fuld. A little Jubilee might work wonders today.

Of course, it could never be superimposed upon today’s society, just as Jesus said: one can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. The prevailing system wouldn’t accommodate it, few folks today have dispostions that would tolerate it. But those trained in Bible principles today should be amenable to it or whatever economic system God provides in the new order. There’s no telling to what degree, if any, God’s new system will draw from that ancient Jubilee arrangement. Nonetheless, the arrangement does offer a glimpse into Jehovah’s thinking.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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The Prophets of Deuteronomy

Prophets are a tricky bunch. You never quite know what they'll do. They are not guys like us that leave home at 8 and return at 5. They're more....um....eclectic.

There are ten instances of the word “prophet” in the book of Deuteronomy, mainly clustered in two places. Best we take a look at them.

Deuteronomy chapter 13

In case a prophet or a dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and does give you a sign or a portent, and the sign or the portent does come true of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to the dreamer of that dream, because Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you are loving Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul. After Jehovah your God you should walk, and him you should fear, and his commandments you should keep, and to his voice you should listen, and him you should serve, and to him you should cling. And that prophet or that dreamer of the dream should be put to death, because he has spoken of revolt against Jehovah your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt….vs. 1-5

Now, It’s been a long time since we came out of the land of Egypt. Nonetheless, what are we to make of this passage? The message gives cause for distrust: “Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known.” Yet the sign “does come true.” It almost doesn’t seem fair, does it? Why can’t the sign fizzle? Instead, it comes true, and “Jehovah your God is testing you.” [!]

Might the peace and security proclamation of 1 Thessalonians qualify as a Deuteronomy “testing” sign that “does come true,” yet invites us to “walk after other gods?” Every Witness of Jehovah knows this passage:

For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape. 1 Thes 5:2-3

Over the years, there’s been a JW culture of peeking behind this or that headline to see if “peace and security” is brewing or even if it's hinted at. It won’t be real peace and security, we all understand, but some unexpected development will apparently resemble it closely enough so that most persons will swoon in ecstasy over what human governments have accomplished. It is not what it appears to be, however. Rather, it’s the last dancer to leave the floor, after which “sudden destruction” is “instantly upon them.” Small wonder the scripture fuels speculation!

But if the majority hoohaw, hi-five, and celebrate, Jehovah’s people see it as a sign that “comes true” yet points to “other gods:” those of human rulership, in exact contradiction to what the Bible says everywhere else about manmade governments. To use the quaint wording of Deuteronomy, God is “testing” us and we try to keep alert so as not to be thrown off track.

Deuteronomy Chapter 18:

However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.    vs 20-22

At first glance, this passage may seem worrisome for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have they not expected the end of this system to come in 1975? And before that in 1914? Um….does that make them false prophets who should (gulp)....die? Some on the internet act as though they'd be glad to pull the switch. You have to be careful, however, because soreheads pad the numbers. I've seen the charge made on the web, for instance, that Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted 1994 as an “end date.” It’s news to me. I was in the thick of things all those years, and never heard of it. I suppose someone somewhere must have thought it, unless it’s totally made up, but it sure never came to my attention, and it certainly was never in print.

There’s a difference between originating a false prophesy and misinterpreting an existing one. Jim Jones and that guy in Waco originated false prophesies.....God revealed stuff to them, they said. But what JWs have done is more akin to misreading a map. They haven't made up prophesies; they've misinterpreted existing ones. The 1975 and before that, the 1914, dates are presented in Watchtower publications with elaborate (though incorrect) scriptural reasoning. Especially in the case of 1914, it still remains a date of some significance, but it wasn’t…um…the end of this system. So….uh….yeah, it does leave egg on your face. You do sort of regret it afterwards, yet in view of what the scriptures say about “keeping on the watch,” perhaps it’s understandable:

It's pretty much like the sprinter at the Olympics who “jumps the gun.” You don’t want to do it routinely, of course, but nobody holds it against the fellow who does it once or twice. They’re human, we all say. In fact, you even wonder about the racer who never does it. Is he really keeping “on the watch?”

Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch. Therefore keep on the watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day or at midnight or at cockcrowing or early in the morning; in order that when he arrives suddenly, he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.”    Mark 13:33-37
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It was a District Convention in the summer of 1975. In New York City. Wasn’t it at some racetrack? This was back when (unlike today) the sound quality was seldom very good and you really had to listen sharp. Nixon had just resigned over Watergate, and Ford had stepped in to replace him. Watergate had been traumatic, and so Ford wanted to reassure the country. Was it his inaugural address where he said  “peace and security” would prevail from this point on?! It was huge headlines that morning in the New York Daily News. The convention speaker, working a theme about the urgency of the times (remember, this was 1975) held up the paper and bellowed: “Have you seen today’s headline?!”

It was irresistible. I would have done it, too. Though I do remember thinking “uh oh” at the time. So maybe I wouldn’t have. At any rate, I’m sure he’s kicked himself since.

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Things Younger than McCain and the Governing Body

We know now we‘re in a sexist country.

We know it because the first woman ever to campaign for President was rejected. What reason could there possibly be other than sexism?

But there is yet one more “ism” that will condemn us before we’re through. Racism, if Obama goes down. Ageism, if McCain is defeated. Such is the nature of this election. It’s a win-win-lose for the politically correct.

Opponents are painting McCain as too old to be President, same as they did two or three elections ago with Bob Dole. Back then, someone pointed out that Dole’s social security number was 6. Of course, it was actually much higher. Similarly, some wise guy has come up with a website collection of things that are younger than John McCain……things like Scrabble, polyester, the minimum wage, teflon, and duct (or duck) tape. I read about this site in the Economist magazine. In fact, since two of the things younger than McCain (Mildred Loving and LSD synthesis) are two things prominently featured in recent Economist issues and nowhere else, and since the website itself is only 2 months old, I suspect the author reads Economist. Perhaps he is even an employee.

Now this “younger than McCain” idea is intriguing to me because I have often thought of doing the same: putting together a list of things that have come about during my lifetime.

Tamper-proof bottle caps, for example. I well remember how you could once buy a bottle of pills or anything else and simply pop the cap and take one. You didn’t have to be a safecracker. It was inconceivable that anyone would tamper with a product. Oh, you might want to poison a specific person, like in an Agatha Christie novel, but to contaminate a product so as to harm random people? It had never happened and was impossible to imagine.   

The Tylenol scare changed all that. In 1982, someone laced bottles on Extra-Strength Tylenol with cyanide. Seven people ultimately died. Johnson & Johnson pulled the product promptly, redid the packaging, and we’ve had to dynamite open containers of anything ever since.

I am also older than airline hijackings. It used to be you could park your car at the airport, buy a ticket, and hop on the plane. Nobody wanted to strip search you. You didn’t have to walk through wands and buzzers. Show up ten minutes before departure time? Not a problem.

According to this report, there were 15 hijackings worldwide between 1948 and 1957, one a year. Between 1958 and 1967, it was about 5 a year. But in 1968 alone there were 38, and the next year 82! For the next ten years: 41 per annum.

Strictly speaking I am not older than all hijackings, but almost. I am older than all hijackings in the western world. The first instances here involved flights to and from Cuba. I vividly remember public dilemma following one of them….how old could I have been? The hijackers had made some demands. This was a new tactic. Nobody in the media knew what to do. Should they report every tidbit of information they learned? Or, by providing a stage, would that only encourage future hijackings? Maybe they should treat the hijackers as simple thugs, and publicize neither their demands nor cause.

The uncertainty lasted a day or two. Then the news people decided to spill all, moralizing that the public “had a right to know.”  I’ve often thought the popularity of hijackings would have fizzled had they not played along.

I have no idea if a young person makes a better President than a old person. I suppose you can’t be taking your afternoon nap when some crazy launches World War III, though the Economist reports that McCain’s indefatigable energy leaves the kids covering his campaign panting and exhausted.

But in a spiritual organization, age is a great virtue. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is comprised of people who are old. Sometimes ancient. The downside, I guess, is that they don’t know much about ipods and reality TV. But the upside is that they don’t go carrying on as if skyjacking and lacing medicine is normal. They’re old enough to realize human society is getting sicker and sicker, and they’re human enough to realize that increased gadgets and technology don’t compensate for that.

Over the years, the governing body has delivered on its promises. Unlike politicians, they've not promised that the world will get rosier and rosier. They’ve said all along that world conditions are rough and will get rougher as humans display their total inability to govern themselves. The present day reeling in view of energy and food spikes is entirely in keeping with the Bible’s take on the “last days” and just one more evidence of human ineptness and mismanagement. “Light at the end of the tunnel” does not shine from any human leaders, but from God’s promise of renewed conditions on earth under Kingdom rule. Focus on those promises, despite unceasing and deafening claptrap about human efforts, and the specific accusations of some soreheads that the GB is out of step with modern times, is a monumental achievement.

Human leaders usually don't lead. More typically, they figure out which way the wave is flowing so as to ride the crest and give the appearance of leading. The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has not been afraid to lead, pressing ahead with a message distinctly unpopular with those who put all their trust in human efforts. Telling about the four horsemen....on the gallop for most of the past century....doesn’t win you friends from that crowd. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it.

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I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.


When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.    Rev 6:2-8  NIV

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Sure, the politically correct today would have the second horseman wailing about sexism, the third ageism, the fourth racism. But the ailments afflicting humankind go even deeper than that.

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Grumbling Slave

"I never thought I'd ever be this old." The circuit overseer was addressing a circuit assembly. He looked at his hands "I didn't think I'd have wrinkles or my hair would turn gray. I thought this present system of things would long have passed, but isn't it fine that many people have come into God's organization over the last decades?" The notion went over well. People clapped.

It doesn't always go over so well, not with everyone. If there's one thing we know about life today, it is that people are restless. In turmoil. Uneasy. Society has broken down in many areas, be it family life, finances, public health and safety, integrity and trust. People are unsettled. And where is the master? Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?

The master, of course, is the one referred to at Matt 24:48-9. Matt 24 and 25 are the apocalyptic chapters of Matthew. They're concerned with the "last days" of human rule on earth. Matt 25:13, for instance, advises Christians to "keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour."

If the day and the hour are out-of-bounds, Jehovah's Witnesses have nonetheless tried to nail the year more than once, most recently in 1975. It's not just them, either. Isaac Newton, the grandpa of science, who wrote more about spiritual matters than math and science combined (to the annoyance of Richard Dawkins, I suspect), decided 2060 was the final year. And even outside Christian circles, didn't the Mayans come up with some date - 2011 - a date rapidly approaching?

And why should people not wonder about such things? Give us a few decades, and we'll all be senile and in diapers. And that amidst an ever-decaying world. Who is so dull as to not be curious about what lies after our 80 years?

We Witnesses learned our "date" lesson for awhile (perhaps) and for some time Armageddon has merely been "soon," even "just around the corner." Armageddon, remember, is not the earth's destruction, but the wiping clean of rebellious society that accompanies Kingdom rule coming to power. Still, that is one heckuva corner.

So some do what Jesus said in 24:48-9:

"But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know...." and will not be pleased.

The "master" seems to be "delaying," and so some of his slaves start to beat up on the other slaves, apparently the ones not so concerned about timing. . "I was misled! It's  mind control! They're false prophets!" You hear people say such things about the Witness organization.

No question about it. There are older JWs who literally never thought they'd see old age in this system. Because of that, some have found themselves "out of sync" with practical life, sometimes seriously so.  Undeniably - a great inconvenience for anyone in that boat. (though there's the other type of person who adapts to anything - nothing inconveniences them! Ah. I wish I were more like that. Tom Whitepebble, for example, who's never worried a day in his life. His goal, he tells me, is to take his last dime out of the bank two minutes before he has his final heart attack. Then he will die with a smile on his face!)

But some are like the "evil" slave, beating up their fellows. Other slaves, who may also have gone out on a limb, simply suck it up and move on. That is not necessarily easy and some opportunities, when they pass, never return. Life in this system is smoother, certainly more predictable, if you do things in a certain order. But the Christian faith, after all, holds that this is not the "real life."

Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.    1 Tim 6:17-19

Faithful ones can expect to be a bit like Abraham, an alien in a foreign land.

By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which [city] is God.    Heb 11:9-10

Have some Witnesses been disappointed with aspects of their personal life? Probably. But only in matters relevant to this system of things, which is not the real life. After all, it's not as if a botched end prophesy is the only grounds for disappointment today. This system of things disappoints people all the time. Ask them about that in Iraq.

Are not our times, at least compared with recent centuries, the most materialistic, individualistic, and self-centered ever? That's not to criticize anyone coming under their spell. It's the world we're born into and it permeates our being. It's harder on the younger generation because the backdrop has become more and more pronounced.

When all is said and done, the real question may be the one Jesus raised in Luke 18:8:

"....when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”

Frankly, you cannot but have great respect for the JW governing organization. They alone are unafraid to go out on a limb. Everyone else hedges their bets. Everyone else covers their rear end. Everyone else tries to have it both ways. They don't.

It's not as if they personally benefit when timing doesn't turn out. They live in dormitories, for crying out loud! Nice dormitories, to be sure. But dormitories, all the same. Should they decide to leave, they don't walk away with a pension or 401K.

Yes, in hindsight, it might be well if dates had never been given. But they're the watchman. Conditions Jesus foretold have long been upon us. So they peer all the harder for details. Mist and fog can mess up a watchman, interfere with his vision. But what good is a watchman who sounds the alarm only when the bow of the approaching ship is scraping your toes?

Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.    Ezek 3:17

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Will the Real Animals Please Stand Up

For the 4th time in 19 years, Jehovah's Witnesses are studying the book Revelation: Its Grand Climax at Hand, a verse by verse consideration of that final Bible book: Revelation. Verse by verse is an ambitious undertaking. Some verses are explained with spot-on, blow-you-out-of-the-water clarity, and some may make you say "hmmm, could that really be?" But even the latter are presented persuasively, backed with evidence, and presented with the non-dogmatic caveat that  "It is not claimed that explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say "do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophesy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times."  (page 9)

A new edition has been prepared for the current study, but, so as not to render the older books obsolete [these are not college textbooks, after all, which deliberately tweak information each year, so that the old book is no good and students must shell out $150 for a new one] an insert has been prepared with all the revisions. They are insignificant, for most part, generally just the updating of dates and statistics. But a few have more substance.

For example, in the midst of discussion of Rev 6:3-4.....

And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say: “Come!”  And another came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.

Paragraph 18 on page 94 states "some scientists forecast mathematically that an accidental nuclear war is virtually certain to take place within the next 25 years - let alone a planned nuclear conflagration!" The updated version, however, yanks this phrase for the blander: "some scientists speak of the possibility of an accidental nuclear war - let alone a planned nuclear conflagration!"   [!]

The reason the publishers have done this is because Tom Barfendogs has marked on his calendar (to the day, hour, and minute) exactly when 25 years from the first book's publication expires. He is praying, hoping, pleading that there is no nuclear war within that time frame (after that is okay) so he can launch into yet another false prophet screamfest. But now he's been checked in his nefarious scheme!

However, there is a school of thought which holds that the publishers too early quit a game of "chicken." The original may yet turn out to be true, even if there is only 6 years left. Do we not have Iran and North Korea cooking up their own bombs, unstable nations if ever there were unstable nations? Is not Isreal thinking they may yet someday teach hostile neighbor nations an atomic lesson? Has not the formerly monolithic Soviet Union more-or-less fallen apart, so that any Boy Scout troop can fill up a shopping cart with second-hand nukes?. Decidedly, the Watchtower publishers are being sissy, girliemen (per Schwartzenegger). It may yet turn out as they first said. And even if it doesn't, who gets egg on their face? The Watchtower? No! "Some scientists" said the saying. Why should Watchtower care if "some scientists" shoot themselves in the foot? "Some scientists" are always saying rash things, like how, if you 'give infinite monkeys infinite typewriters one of them will write the complete works of Shakespeare!' Or how boisterous flatulance evolved over the eons as a means to scare off predators.

The publishers also missed an opportunity to update when commenting on Rev 6:8

And I saw, and, look! a pale horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Hades was closely following him. And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Commenting on the "wild beasts of the earth" part, Watchtower lays stress on literal mean animals, like the vicious Monty Python bunny rabbit. [my example, not theirs] They also mention people who behave like animals, making a reference to Isa 11:6-9:

And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.

The animals in this verse likely refer to people as well as the literal critters. This is because other verses liken people to various animals, and "the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah" would affect people, but probably not animals. So formerly vicious "animals," under Kingdom rule, coexist peacefully with their nicer counterparts. But in Revelation 6:8, the vicious animals are having a field day, being one of the means in which Death claims a quarter of the earth.

Lots of people are vicious animals today. Unreasoning. Bombers, for example, ecstatic at the thought of dying, if only they can take a few dozen with them! And just today [July 17] there is an NPR report of gangs ("The Multitude") in Kenya that have beheaded 100 people. Heads turn up all over the city, sometimes on spikes. "Animals" is a perfect description! Even in the original 1988 edition, Watchtower observed that such "[animalistic] people are largely responsible for the global expansion of sex-related crimes, murder, terrorism, and bombings in the modern world." It was true then. All the more so today.

It was a area in which the current edition could have expanded, but didn't.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

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